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Everyone's A Critic

The literary trend du jour, evidently, is for authors to voice their displeasure at negative reviews--not even scathing ones, mind you, merely negative--in unhinged online tirades.

After the Boston Globe's Roberta Sillman offered a disappointed take on Alice Hoffman's latest novel, The Story Sisters, in Sunday's paper, Hoffman went on a murderous, 27-tweet Twitter spree, calling Sillman a "moron" and an "idiot," publishing her phone number and email address, and encouraging supporters to "Tell her what u think of snarky critics."

Even as Hoffman was thinking better of the outburst and shutting down her Twitter account (several of the offending tweets can still be seen here), she was being one-upped by essayist Alain de Botton, himself the recipient of a less-than-flattering review by Caleb Crain in the Times. Unwilling or unable to parcel out his broadside in installments of 140 characters or less, de Botton instead posted it on Crain's blog and then linked to it through Twitter. A sample:

[I]t is a review driven by an almost manic desire to bad-mouth and perversely depreciate anything of value. The accusations you level at me are simply extraordinary. I genuinely hope that you will find yourself on the receiving end of such a daft review some time very soon - so that you can grow up and start to take some responsibility for your work as a reviewer..... I will hate you till the day I die and wish you nothing but ill will in every career move you make. I will be watching with interest and schadenfreude.....

Everyone is allowed their own taste and I'd be the last person to force a consensus. However, there's a point at which a review becomes so angry, cruel and mean-spirited that perspective just disappears and one is into new and uncharted terrain. I'm responding to this review as a way of proposing that forgiveness is perhaps not always the only option when the provocation has been enormous.

For obvious reasons, I find it an immense relief that, for the most part, Hollywood stars and directors are too busy adopting babies, experimenting with pharmaceuticals, and commisioning solid-gold statues of favored pets to waste their time on this kind of thing. I would like briefly to remind Megan Fox, however, that if she has any abiding complaints regarding my Transformers review, it would be best to share them in person, perhaps over a nice fennel and onion risotto.

--Christopher Orr